killing with good intention - Dhamma Wheel

killing with good intention

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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killing with good intention

Postby hove » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:38 pm


hi all

in order to understand the laws of Kamma , a little deeper,
i have devised here a hypothetical question :

suppose there is a man with cruel intention, who is about to push the button and launch a Hydrogen bomb, over a big city, creating mass destruction and mass suffering.

examining the situation , i see clearly that the only way to stop him is to `pull the trigger`, and take his life.

examining my mind, i make sure that along with lots metta-karuna for the big city dwellers,
i also have metta-karuna for the that man, and only slight ill-will towards him .

realizing that i am about to break sila and suffer the kammic fruit for it,
i pull the trigger ,without hesitation


1) what are the kammic consequences of breaking this sila, with `good` intentions, and that much ("some") level of sati-panna (as described), in such an extreme (hypothetical) situation ?

2) can you say that this action is "in line with Dhamma" ?
3) can you say that it is "against Dhamma"?

(my confusion is regarding the merit-de-merit ratio in Kammic fruits, regarding parameters such as : intention, , and wisdom/ignorance, (and also "phisical kamma").

4) Is the Intention factor much more dominant , in determening the Kammic fruit, than the Wisdom Factor
or is it not ?

i know that Kamma is an extremely complicated subject, but i am hoping that maybe some of you, have some insight on the subject, and perhaps came across some relevant Pali sources

much metta


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Re: killing with good intention

Postby perkele » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:41 pm

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby marc108 » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:58 pm

"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:18 pm


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Re: killing with good intention

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:49 pm

You are mixing up intention with motivation here.
motivation is the why you do something and intention in the desire to do it (to simplify it)

the intention is to kill the reason why you kill may alter the consequenses to some degree but the intention to kill and then the act of killing would bring the same results kammically.
there is always other options, you could restrain him somehow, which wouldn't lead to consequenses kammically because the intention is not to hurt but to preserve life. you could also reason with him.... there are always other options.

so to answer your questions
1- hell
2- no
3- yes
4- intention is the dominant factor (imo) and wisdom can guide to some degree. or to use archery as an example. the intention dictates the target area, motivation the accuracy of the aim to that target.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby barcsimalsi » Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:15 pm

Nice topic.

What about those executioners and hangmans who pull the level to ensure final justice is made?
What about the Judge who sentenced a druglord to be hang?
What about the enforcers who kill the bandits to keep the community safe?
What about the government healthcare servants who are responsible for clearing out those cute mosquito larva?

Imagine if all these people mentioned above are Buddhist who insist on not breaking any precepts, what is gonna happen to the world? Will it creates a better world? :thinking:

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby corrine » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:54 pm

This is a very old argument. Back in the fifties the subject of 'would you kill the young Hitler if you had the chance, knowing what evil he would do?' was a very popular topic in ethical discussions. This was even a topic for scholastic debates. It is always presented as doing a greater good - i.e. killing to prevent more killing. This argument is often also made for going to war.

What it comes down to is a personal choice. Do you believe that it is always wrong to kill, or not. There will always be those who could be stopped from doing evil, by killing them. How many will you kill? Will there ever be a point at which you have killed enough bad people, or will there always be more 'needing to be stopped' by killing.

For me, there are some absolutes. I would consider giving my life to prevent the evil such as stepping in front of someone to protect them. I would not kill them. Because for me killing is not an option. Not for evil people and not for food and not for convenience. For me, it is a very slippery slope to more killing. Once we rationalize the act of taking the life of another sentient being, how many others will we kill. All for very good reasons.

I believe that all life is impermanent. It is not up to me to 'save' one life by taking another. This is not my right. If we start seeing ourselves as the ultimate deciders in the question of who should and who should not live, we are affecting not only what happens in this situation but what might happen in the future.

As to executioners etc. - I believe that this is not right occupation. I believe that the death penalty is wrong. Killing begets killing. It always has and it always will.


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Re: killing with good intention

Postby appicchato » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:20 pm

Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.

Number one on the list...easy peasy...

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby polarbear101 » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:25 pm

"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby santa100 » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:33 pm

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby manas » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:43 pm

Beings will always be born and die regardless; what is more rare is for wisdom to be cultivated, and it doesn't seem wise to me, to save someone else from becoming a murderer, by becoming one oneself.
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby Kamran » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:23 am

The intention of Buddhist morality to calm the body and mind; to reduce tension as a precondition for psychological work.

Mental peace is crucial to the path, so which ever action would be less likely to disturb your mental peace would be the skillful choice in my opinion.

Its all about the meditation practice :)
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby buddhismfordudes » Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:13 pm

Let's get real. Would a Buddhist kill a rabid dog that's about to bite his daughter? That is the dimension of this issue, not guys with their finger on the bomb button, young Hitlers, and mosquito larvae. Good grief! What would be the better thing - protecting a few people with your body during a shooting rampage, and getting killed for the effort, or shooting the shooter? There are people in this world who protect others, because that is their temperament and because they are trained to do so. Through my blog "Buddhism for Tough Guys" I have an expanded network of former policemen and military men who are Buddhist and are willing to take a bullet for anybody under any circumstances. They embody the real meaning of anatta by always putting the safety of others before their own. And guess what? They carry concealed firearms. As a Zen monk once put it to me when I asked him what he would do if he was attacked: "I would fight back. We're Buddhists, not stupid." I think that intellectual hair-splitting in western Buddhism puts off a lot of good, decent people such as those I have described. They are quite literally willing to sacrifice their lives and their karmas to preserve the lives of others. Some of us see our Buddhist practice as a way of becoming mentally tough to face a challenging world. I can think of no act of compassion greater than ignoring one's own safety in order to save another's life.
Gerry Stribling
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Blog "Buddhism for Tough Guys" at

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby kmath » Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:26 pm

Last edited by kmath on Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby kmath » Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:31 pm

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby greenjuice » Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:14 pm

The first precept is explained in the Tipitaka as the Vinaya rule Parajika 3.

No matter what the motivation is, if you intentionally cause someone's death, it's a breach of the first precept. In intentional killing, the motivation is irrelevant. Even if someone is dying and is in pain, and motivated by compassion and desiring that he doesn't experience pain, someone would to advise him to fast to death, if he were to do that, the former would have broken the first precept. If one uninentionally kills someone, the first precept is not broken.

Here is the rendering of the rule: ... 4.html#Pr3

Another rule that relates to this is the rule Pacittiya 74 that forbids hitting someone out of anger. This means any violence, done to another out of anger, that doesn't include intention to kill, being that such violence is under the Pj 3 rule. In doing violence like this, without intention to kill, motivation is a factor. If one does such violence out of anger, that is unwolesome. If one does such violence in self-defense, it is not an offense, even if anger arises in one's mind.

Rendering of the rule: ... .html#Pc74

Presumably, there is also no offense in defending others, having in mind Buddha's words that one should protect one's family and friends (that he gives e.g. in the Sigalovada Sutta). So, to adress your concrete example, there would be nothing unwholesome in "pulling the trigger" and shooting him in the arm, so he can't push the button.

Having all this in mind, if you would to see someone going to push the button and kill beings, and then taking a weapon and pulling the trigger to shoot him in the arm in order to stop him, with no intention to kill him, with the primary motivation to protect beings from him, there would be nothing wrong with that, even if you unintentionally kill him, or if your motivation becomes mixed with anger.

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby zamotcr » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:11 pm

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby seeker242 » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:54 pm

Solution: shoot him in the shoulder so he can't push the button. :woohoo:

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby dagon » Fri Nov 29, 2013 5:30 pm

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Re: killing with good intention

Postby buddhismfordudes » Fri Nov 29, 2013 10:32 pm

Great replies!! Thank you. However, unless the "bad guy" is standing right in front of you, you may intend to wound him in the arm, but it ain't that easy. Hand a handgun to a novice and he literally cannot hit a door at twenty feet. It's not like TV.
Gerry Stribling
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Blog "Buddhism for Tough Guys" at

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